Flats and The Party Wall Act

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Owners planning to alter or extend a leasehold flat are often confused as to which of their neighbours need to be formally notified under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. To try and cut through this confusion Dakota Murphey has consider the two most popular types of work; loft conversions and ground based extensions.

Loft Conversions

When converting a roof space it is usually necessary to support the new floor and dormer roof with steel beams and those beams and their associated padstones will be cut in to the external walls.

The best way for the building owner to work out which neighbours need to notified is to go through each adjoining property and ask these 2 questions:

  1. Is my property divided from theirs by a party structure? and;
  2. Is that structure affected by the works?

If there are connected properties to either side then the dividing wall will be a party wall. The freehold owners of the neighbouring properties have an interest in the whole property so will need to be notified. If the neighbouring property is divided in to flats then it will also be necessary to notify the leasehold owner of the corresponding flat (on the basis that the beams are being cut in to the section of party wall that is shared with that flat) but not on the leasehold owners of the flat(s) below.

If there is a flat directly below the building owner there will be a party structure diving the two properties (the floor/ceiling) but that structure would not generally be affected by a loft conversion so notice need not be served on that owner.   

The owners of flats below the building owner are often concerned about the additional load being placed on the party wall by the steel beams and cannot understand why they have not been notified under the Act but ‘placing additional load’ is simply not included in the notifiable works set out in section 2 of the Act.

Ground Based Extensions

Where an owner is excavating within 3.00m of an adjoining or shared structure and to a greater depth than the base of the foundations to that structure a Notice of Adjacent Excavation must be served.  

Section 6 of the Act confirms that the 3.00m distance is ‘measured horizontally’ and if that is taken literally it means notice would need to be served on all owners, leasehold and freehold, whose premises bear upon foundations that are within 3.00m of the proposed excavation. If there are flats above the building owner’s property and the properties to either side are also divided in to flats that could amount to quite a few notices.

In the absence of any further guidance in the wording of the Act it will be for the building owner and their surveyor to agree on a common-sense approach. Serving on adjoining freeholders and the leaseholders of ground floor flats might be considered reasonable but most surveyors would recommend extending that to at least the leasehold owners of the first floor flats.

Where there are several adjoining owners it is important that the process is carefully managed to keep the number of surveyors involved (and the resultant fees) to a minimum. If there is time, it’s a good idea to serve notice on just the adjoining freeholders initially and wait for a response. If a freeholder appoints a surveyor the leasehold owners will often be more likely to consent on the basis that their flat will be covered in the freeholder’s award or failing that appoint the same surveyor as their freeholder; either of which will be cheaper than them appointing their own surveyor. To keep your flat clean you can refer to these services of flat clearance in London